Once Tiger Bay, now just plain Cardiff Bay, is a re-generated area of outstandingly modern developments and architectural innovation surrounding a huge artificial lake.
Cardiff Bay can be reached on foot from the city centre. Simply find the ruler-straight tree-lined boulevard which is Lloyd George Avenue, and walk until you reach the water.
You will be greeted by the sight of iconic red brick Pier Head building, the backdrop for BBC Wales’ news bulletins. The building, once the docks custom house, now contains the Assembly Interpretation Centre, a display for the National Assembly for Wales, whose building the Senedd (Welsh for Parliament or Senate) is next door. This funnel-topped debating chamber is eco-friendly, harnessing natural forces to try and offset energy usage, using wind to ventilate and rain water to flush toilets.
A new national symbol is the Wales Millennium Centre whose home is also Cardiff Bay, alongside the Roald Dahl Plass, an oval basin with a giant silver waterfall at its centre. The Wales Millennium Centre, with its steel roof, Swansea glass, walls mimicking Nash Point cliffs and Blaenau Ffestiniog slate is all-Welsh and impossible to ignore.
Around the corner is The Norwegian Church, where Roald Dahl was christened. Now an arts centre, it began life as a seaman’s mission in 1869 and worship continued there until 1974. Road Dahl was patron of the society which dismantled the church and rebuilt it in its present position on the edge of Cardiff Bay.
Outside the entrance to the Norwegian Church is the icy-looking Scott Memorial, commemorating the recent centenary anniversary of the ‘Age of Antarctic Discovery’. Scott set sail from Cardiff on his last ill-fated adventure. Designed by Cardiff-based sculptor Jonathon Williams, the mosaic was inspired by Barcelona’s modernist architect Gaudi. The snow-white abstract piece shows Scott man-hauling South towards the pole with the faces of his co-explorers trapped in the ice. A glance through the gap in the centre, which represents the ice cave from expedition photos, shows the entrance of Cardiff Bay, a sight of the sea and start of the expedition’s voyage that remains almost the same to this day.
The monument stands on a compass between the Norwegian Church and the lock where the Terra Nova started its journey. The proximity to the Church is a poignant reminder that Scott was beaten to the Pole by Norwegian, Roald Amundsen.
On the other side of the Bay is Techniquest, Britain’s best hands-on science museum and planetarium. Even if you hate science, with 160 interactive exhibits and live demonstrations, half a million visitors a year who wander around touching, feeling and seeing science in action can’t be wrong.
Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre, close to the Norwegian Church, makes a good starting point for your walk around the Bay, with a scale model of the Bay area, souvenir shop and plenty of local information.
The Victorian heart of the Bay is Mount Stuart Square, notable for the Coal Exchange building, where in March 1908 the world’s first £1 million cheque was written. It’s now a venue for entertainment, hosting music gigs and events.
Cardiff Bay Barrage was built at a cost of £220m to convert the mudflats into a 200-hectare freshwater lake. It keeps the sea out, and is a tourist attraction in its own right. You can catch a ferry over to the Barrage and see how it works.
Cardiff Bay also has a number of Sports venues – an Olympic pool, a white water rafting centre and an ice rink that is home for the Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey team.
Cardiff Bay Restaurants
Mermaid Quay is where eating and drinking in Cardiff Bay is made too easy, with the variety of restaurants and bars. Choose from dim sum, seafood, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, pub grub or Turkish – and there’s more besides. Drink in the labyrinthine pub within a pub, Terra Nova with its wooden terraces and outdoor seating and watch the people go by, or visit the Glee Comedy Club.